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THE LORD OF THE RINGS: A Fable For Our Times

by Richard Poe
Saturday, December 20, 2003

7:30 am Eastern Time
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Yesterday, Marie and I went to see The Return of the King, the final episode in Peter Jackson’s rendition of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. It was, of course, everything we expected — a fitting finale to a brilliant tour de force.

The film moved me deeply without arousing any sense of loss or nostalgia upon leaving the theater and re-entering the workaday world. Have I changed so much? Or has the world changed since those by-gone days when reading a book such as Mary Renault’s The King Must Die could leave me desolate for weeks, my twelve-year-old heart yearning to escape suburbia’s dull routines and enter the enchanted realm of Theseus and Ariadne?

Truly, our modern world, with its Internet, nanotechnology and genetic engineering, seems as filled with everyday wizardry as Middle Earth. Moreover, the problem of feuding races and competing bloodlines vexes our generation — and engrosses us — as intractably as it did Tolkien’s elves, dwarves, orcs and men. Finally, we face an evil today as hungry as Sauron; as cunning as Gollum; dark as the Nazgul; mighty as Mordor’s armies; and as poisonously seductive as the One Ring.

Tolkien’s world draws me in, even while intensifying my zest for flesh-and-blood reality. This paradox testifies to Tolkien’s and Peter Jackson’s artistry. It also bespeaks my deepening middle age. The great consolation of growing older is that one’s blood no longer burns with the dreams and wanderlust of youth. As the years pass, we turn with cool deliberation to the task at hand, knowing, as old, gray-bearded Gandalf knew, that time is short.

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